Analyst: '[MEA] has decided it is above the law'
For more than two years, the Michigan Education Association has had a manual that urges its members to use students as propaganda in contract negotiations and also lays out how to organize strikes, which are illegal in Michigan.
A 28-page manual, “Building Full Capacity Locals — Crisis Planning, It’s Never Too Early To Start!” has one section that reads: “Strikes: Aren’t They Illegal?” and follows with a civil disobedience quote from Mahatma Gandhi. The manual appears to have been created in July of 2009.
“What’s really troubling about this publication isn’t what’s inside, it’s right there on the cover. This organization has decided it is above the law that has empowered them so much in so many other ways,” said Paul Kersey, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in an email. “We have given them the authority to represent employees who individually may not support them, and to collect dues and agency fees from them and have them fired if they refuse. But the union does not feel it is bound by the law’s prohibition of government strikes.”
The manual states that the "MEA ... supports and defends its members who engage in a strike." It also says that not all job actions are strikes. It offers advice on how to pull off “Work-To-Rule” actions where employees refuse to do anything outside of what is included in their contract.
“Understand that a local is limited only by its collective imagination when it comes to specific work-to-rule actions,” the manual states. “If you carefully examine your contract you will probably find a number of work-to-rule opportunities. Keep in mind, however, that you don’t want to violate the contract or past practice; you want to adhere to it … exactly!”
Doug Pratt, spokesman for the MEA, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
One section of the manual appears to quote almost verbatim Saul Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals” — a handbook for community organizing. Alinsky’s book includes: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
The MEA manual states: “Pick a target—personalize—and polarize the opposition.”
The manual also emphasizes using children when bargaining.
“In terms of a bargaining message, the public responds most positively when we talk about children, quality in the classroom and the future,” the MEA manual states. “There may come a time when it’s appropriate to talk about money and benefits, but lay the groundwork first.”
The manual even suggests one slogan that it claims has worked for other locals: “It’s not about dollars and cents; it’s about our children.”